Paul Bunyan State Forest

Parks & Geology, Paul Bunyan / Saturday, October 5th, 2019

I have to be honest, The Paul Bunyan State Forest is one of my all-time favorite places in Minnesota.

Let me tell you why.

This area, outside Park Rapids, is near and dear to me for several reasons but most notably because it is where I, a self-professed Paul Bunyan expert, believe the idea for the mythical lumberjack was conceived

In 1898, the Red River Lumber Company had purchased this area of land and constructed a sawmill on the Eleventh Crow Wing Lake near what is today the city of Akeley.

Beginning with four to five logging camps, the area quickly grew, adding eight to ten by 1908. Much of Minnesota’s old-growth red pine and eastern white pine were logged. In 1915, the Red River Lumber Company moved its operations to California.

One year later, W. B. Laughead, a former lumberjack who worked in Akeley and later relocated with The Red River Logging Company, created the Paul Bunyan likeness.

Drawing the lumberjack into existence, Paul grew from the pages of the Lumber Co.’s advertising pamphlets, quickly rising to the fame he has garnered today.

Logging only persisted in the area a few more years before operations ceased.  Small operators with portable sawmills cut the rest of the timber and left the area by 1920.

The State Forest was established 1935 and is part of the Western Great Lakes Forests, and borders the Chippewa National Forest, the Welsh Lake State Forest, and the Mississippi Headwaters State Forest.

Today, you can hike the old logging railroad beds that have been converted to recreational trails. The Paul Bunyan State Trail, the Heartland State Trail, and the North Country National Scenic Trail all pass through the forest.

I highly recommend finding your way up to Thorpe Lookout, where the old fire tower used to be located.

It is the perfect place to start a campfire, roast marshmallows and see the sunset against the forest.

It is also a great place to see how much this forest changes in comparison to other State Forests.  Foresters are currently working on harvesting mature aspen to reinstate pine in the forest.

Those culled are used in everything from building materials, pulp for making paper, and pallets, to fencing and telephone poles.

Now that I have told you mine, what is YOUR favorite spot in Minnesota?

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